tv Meet the Press MSNBC February 10, 2013 11:00am-12:00pm PST
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dragon is captured. is connecting today's leading companies to places beyond it. siemens. answers. from nbc news in >> announcer: from nbc news in washington, the world's longest-running television program, this is "meet the press" with david gregory. >> good sunday morning. we're following the big weather story in the northeast, as this weekend's huge winter storm blanketed the region from new york to maine, as you know.
new york city has kicked the worst of it, but more than three feet of snow fell in parts of connecticut, rhode island and massachusetts, powerful wind gusts as well cutting power and downing trees. electrical power remains out in nearly 350,000 homes across the area this morning, so a lot of cleanup to do there. meanwhile, the political climate has our attention here in washington as the president prepares to deliver his state of the union address tuesday night as he begins a second term, we're being told he will return to his primary message of how to restore economic growth. we're going to talk to both sides this morning. the number two republican leader in the house, eric cantor and assistant democratic leader dick durbin. eric cantor, i want to begin with you and welcome back to "meet the press." >> it's a pleasure, david, good morning. >> there are so many areas that are contentious between republicans and democrats in the white house right now and chief among them is this sequester word, this dirty word in washington that means automatic spending cuts, $1.2 trillion over ten years could begin in weeks with $85 billion in
automatic cuts. here's the real question to my mind, do you really want this as a republican leader? i mean, look at the impact it would have in your state alone. the "associated press" wrote about it this week. "sequestration," again, another word for automatic spending cuts, "today a political football, would cripple virginia's economy if it happens. proportionately, no state would suffer more than virginia, the commonwealth would lose more than 130,000 jobs from defense cuts alone. not only is virginia home to the pentagon, the largest navy base in norfolk, it's a hub for defense contractors, such as aircraft carrier builders, nondefense budget cuts would eliminate another 71,000-plus jobs in virginia. so, the impact over 200,000 jobs, second only to california. you can't want this automatic spending cut to go forward. >> you know, clearly, this is not, david, the best way to go about trying to control spending, and we have demonstrated in the house for two separate occasions.
one of the bills that we put across the floor that passed i was a sponsor of for exactly that reason. these are indiscriminate cuts. we can do a lot better. and what i hope to be able to hear from the president in the state of the union is he wants to join us in trying to effect much smarter cuts in spending so we don't have to have -- >> but that's what he's saying. >> so we don't have to have the impact that you discussed. >> why not work with him on some short-term measure that he's talking about to delay this, try to find a different way to go about these cuts? >> the problem is, david, every time you turn around, the answer is to raise taxes. and he just got his tax hike on the wealthy, and you can't in this town every three months raise taxes. and again, every time, that's his response. and you know, we've got a spending problem. everybody knows it. the house has put forward an alternative plan, and there's been no response in any serious way from the senate or the white house, and it's time we've really got to deal with that. >> listen how the president
responded. in a saturday address, he took on what the house plan is and tried to put the pressure on republicans over the automatic spending cut. here's what he said. >> right now, most members of congress, including many republica republicans, don't think it's a good idea to put thousands of jobs at risk and do unnecessary damage to our economy. and yet, the current republican plan puts the burden of avoiding those cuts mainly on seniors and middle class families. they'd rather ask more from the vast majority of americans and put our recovery at risk than close even a single tax loophole that benefits the wealthy. >> is the tax fight really over? is there not tax reform that's possible? >> first of all, the tax fight for the president means higher taxes, more revenue. again, we can't be raising taxes every three months in this town, david. and you know, the bottom line is we want tax return, but we want to go plug those loopholes that the president talks about to bring down tax rates, because we believe that is pro-growth and we can get an economy growing
again, let people who earn the money keep more of it. the president's not talking about that. what he's talking about is trying to raise more taxes for washington to spend the money. >> how does this end? i mean, in the end, republicans, from everybody i've talked to, they can live with this across-the-board cutting. it would hurt your state deeply, it would hurt the defense industry, but are you willing to just live with it? >> here's what i hope will happen. we have in our alternative several proposals that the president's actually come out in favor of. there are improvements to what's called the medicare provider tax to get rid of the gimmick that states are playing and the president supports that. and our plan says we have to bring fellow employee pension benefits down in line with the market rates. those are the kinds of things that we're talking about as alternatives that make a lot more sense that won't have the impact on the people who are out there working. and you know, the president, he's the one who proposed the sequester in the first place. so again, i'm questioning where this thing is going, because
he's not moved in any serious way, but we remain anxiously waiting for him to come to the table to work with us to solve this problem. >> bottom line, you could live with the sequester if it happens? >> i don't want to live with the sequester. i want reductions in spending that make sense. these indiscriminate reductions do not make sense, and we're going to hurt a lot of people, and it's up to the president really to act now. >> let me talk about immigration. you gave a big speech this week where you talked about the future of the republican party. tuned a lot of people listening, they heard a shift of position from you about how to deal with those illegal immigrants who are now in the country. maybe they were the children of illegal immigrants. this is what you said on tuesday. >> one of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents. and it is time to provide an opportunity for legal residents and citizenship for those who are brought to this country as
children and who know no other home. >> so, the question is, are you changing your position? are you moving to the middle and are you willing to go all in to bring conservatives in the house to the table to support a pathway to citizenship for those illegal immigrants who are already here? >> david, it's been over ten years now that this problem has not been dealt with and we've been unable to find any common ground, and what i said this week at the american enterprise institute was that i thought the best place to start was with children. you know, these are children who due to no fault of their own were brought here, and we do have a tradition in our country. we're a country of immigrants, you know? i'm a second-generation american. my grandparents left the anti-semitic pegrams of russia to come here to recognize a better life. in the same way, these children were taken, again, due to no fault of their own. it seems to me that's the best place to start. >> you would support the dream act? >> i have put out a proposal. i don't know what the dream act
at this point is. what i say is, we've got a place i think all of us can come together, and that is for the kids. now -- >> can you bring conservatives along to supporting a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are here without having to first leave the country? >> there is a lot of movement right now in the house and the senate, both sides of the aisle, with folks having a lot of different ideas. i think -- >> yes or no to that question, because you could really do it. if you went all in, you could bring along the right ain the house, don't you? >> i think a good place to start is children. and listen, here's the difficulty on this issue, i think, and it is because we've got families who are here that have become part of the fabric of our country, right? and we want to make sure that we're compassionate and sensitive to their plight. i mean, these kids know no other place as home. on the other hand, we are a country of laws. you know, we have a situation of border security that we've got to get straight. we have to secure our borders. and there is this balance that needs to take place, but the
best place to begin, i think, is with the children. let's go ahead and get that under our belt, put a win on the board, and so we can promise a better life for those kids who are here due to no fault of their own. >> part of what you're talking about is rebranding the republican party, and that was partly what your speech was about, and there is a lot of ferment right now in the republican party -- what's the right direction for the party to get back into power, beyond controlling the house, but to get back to a national election. the political team on "first read" had a reality check for what you and other republicans face. talking about the challenge for republicans as they focus more on tone than policies. majorities of americans rejected some of the party's central principles. according to the exit polls from the november presidential election. for instance, 60% say that income tax rates should either go up on all americans or those with incomes above $250,000. 59% said abortion should be legal in all or most cases. 65% favor giving illegal immigrants a path to legal status. it's rare to find politicians in washington who believe their
political believes will cost them an election or policy defeat. they almost always blame communication. isn't this more than tone that's an issue? isn't it more than rebranding? isn't it some of the central beliefs of the republican party that have hurt it with the electorate? >> david what i talked about this week was the need for us to connect our conservative principles with helping people and making their life work again. and i have talked about a man who is a dad in the inner city of the district of columbia, who all he wanted was to find a safe place for his kids to learn. he's got four kids. and he discovered after having fought with the local school system, the opportunity scholarship program here in d.c., something that speaker boehner has been an extraordinary champion on, and he realized the benefits of that, and now all of his kids have had an opportunity to start in that school. one is at the university of the district of columbia today. i've talked about working parents who are hourly
wage-earners who are having a tough time getting through the month right now. those are the things that people, that we've got to be concerned about. i don't think that joseph kelly, the dad here in the district of columbia, cares one iota about rebranding the republican or the democratic party. i think what we care about and what he cares about is his kids, and that's where washington really needs to remember, is these are real problems. these people are having a tough time, and we ought to be about providing relief to those who don't have a job and to those who do and making their life work again. >> but it's core beliefs. what you're talking about, as you admitted after your speech, is not something that's going to be captured in new legislation. there are core beliefs to the republican party that the polls show were rejected by a national electorate that you want to try to recapture some of if you're going to get to become a national party. >> i'm not quite sure about legislation. we were going to have follow-up legislation to pretty much everything i spoke of this year. and that's the point. the point is, we've got to be
talking about helping folks. you know, i've got a constituent, she's 12 years old. her name is katie. she was diagnosed with cancer at age 1. i mean, can you imagine? that is a parent's nightmare, the worst nightmare. and the federal government's got a role in research, in basic medical research trying to find cures for disease. we can work together on something like that. we've got so many issues. we know on the bigger macroeconomic issues, there's a real disagreement between us and the president. we ought to be making sure we manage down the debt and deficit. he doesn't share the commitment with us on that. so, okay, we're going to keep at it on that, but at the same time, you've got so many millions of americans who feel that they have become an afterthought. my purpose in saying this is we have conservative principles that actually can work for their life again, and that's what we're going to be about promoting. >> before you go, i want to ask you about the debate over drones. as a key part of the president's national security policy, why
hasn't congress passed any additional legislation to review drone policy, to really understand where there ought to be checks and balances? in the time that's passed since the original authorization, post 9/11, that gave the president the authority to have a kill list that the president works off of for drones? >> i'm glad to hear that the administration has released the memo that is under discussion to our intelligence committees in both the house and the senate. we're going to be about oversight and getting into examining that memo. but you know, let's just say, suffice is to say, i guess, david, is that, you know, we have a terrorist threat out there. islamic extremists are out there still trying to kill americans and go after what we stand for in this world. and if we're going to continue to be the leading force for peace, prosperity and security in this world, we're going to have to have the tools necessary to do so, and i believe just as in the prior administration, in
this administration, we can strike that balance to protect america to employ technologies to do that at the same time upholding constitutional rights. >> and you're not concerned about the current policy, even where it might target americans who join the enemy? >> again, this is no different than the policy perhaps that was in place before. we'll find out about that in the oversight that we'll pursue. >> all right, eric cantor, thank you for your time. we appreciate it. >> david, thanks. coming up, we'll preview the president's state of the union address and interview dick durbin. police, our roundtable is here with react to cantor and all the issues, gun control, immigration reform and more that the president will pursue in his second term. joining me, democratic mayor akasim reed, former speech writer for george w. bush, michael gerson, republican strategist mike murphy and the bbc's katty kay along with correspondent michael isikoff who broke the story that
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its unofficial creed is rain or shine, snow or sleet, we deliver your mail. but apparently the united states postal service was no match for saturday. this week it announced that starting in august saturday delivery will be no more. for many, the decision to cut back to five days carries more symbolic consequences than practical. in this information age of e-mails, tweets and text messages what we affectionately call snail mail seems somewhat impractical. but the bigger question is this. is the current model sustainable, even with the most recent change? while we live in a digital age, we still rely on the postal service's sprawling network to connect even the most remote areas of the country. in fact, even fedex relies on the postal service. 21% of its shipments are
ultimately delivered by the mailman. and if you take into consideration what it costs the consumer to mail a first-class letter from talkeetna, alaska, to tallahassee, florida, the u.s. postal service does it at a bargain price of less than 50 cents. using a private carrier, it would cost 50 to 100 times as much. nevertheless, the postal service handles 45 billion fewer pieces of mail today than just five years ago. after last year suffering a nearly $16 billion shortfall, slashing saturdays will only save the post office $2 billion and strip anywhere from 20,000 to 25,000 jobs from the payroll. we'll be back here on "meet the press" to talk to senator dick durbin and our "political roundtable" after this. of meals. when you don't use new pam, this is what you get. residue. [ female announcer ] bargain brand cooking spray leaves annoying residue. that's why there's new pam.
we are back. we're going to speak to the assistant democratic leader, senator dick durbin, in a moment. but i want to begin with our roundtable. joining me here, republican strategi strategist, mike murphy, democratic mayor of atlanta, kasim reed, national correspondent michael isikoff, who of course broke the drone story this week, anchor of "bbc world news america," katty kay, former speechwriter for president bush and columnist for "the washington post" michael
gerson. welcome to all of you. here you are. i wanted everybody to weigh in on this moment, the president and how he approaches the legislative end of his second term and his state of the union address. i thought "the washington post" summed it up will writing about it this week capturing the moment. "this time it's not about george w. bush's impact or an upcoming election or recovering from major setbacks from the last one. obama's trying to advance his most ambitious legislative agenda since his first year in office, and he's doing it on the heels of a re-election victory. the country just doubled down on obama's agenda, which isn't something the president could have said even at his peak of popularity in early 2009." mike murphy, that's the backdrop. how do you see his approach? >> well, i'm a critic of it, and i hope he changes it with the state of the union for this reason. there's no doubt he won fair and square. he got 66 million votes, but 61 million people voted to fire him, and they're in about 230 republican congressional districts where those incumbents don't care about getting e-mails from the president or michelle.
he has to get out of the way of immigration or the deal will blow up. and the republicans in the short-term have the politics to hunker down. in the midterm elections, some of those senate races are in places where the president's unpopular. so, the path he started on, which was i've got a very broad agenda and i'm going to still keep a campaign-style thing pressuring you is not going to work with these guys, and that will result in gridlock for the country, which is horrible. >> katty kay, i guess the question is how much does he feel he has to do when he feels at the height of his confidence at the moment? >> yeah, he's got this kind of fairly short window where he's just been re-elected. it's his stirt state of the union where he's not running for re-election. he can take that forward and decide to push his agenda, but the window is short because all of a sudden, all of the members of the house will be starting to think about midterm elections. he'll have to get big things done soon. in 2012, he pronls edpromised a
america. he raised taxes. we'll see whether inequality levels start to come down in america, but the big thing he's going to have to do is promise to get jobs for the country. we're living in a world where robots are cheap and efficient, and people are expensive and inefficient, and he's got to find a post-manufacturing america, lay out a plan for it where there is job growth, and that's the single biggest priority of his second term. >> that's where the pinkett is, michael gerson. he wants to get back to economic growth. >> i agree, and i think that's a smart part of the agenda. i'm not sure how much of that you get done, though, with this outside game he's been pursuing. you're just constantly beating up on the congress, highly ideological inaugural address. he has to make the choice in this speech, what i'm watching for is whether he tries to continue that dynamic, which is highly polarized, and doesn't get anything done, or whether he tries to break the dynamic. and on the economic issues, when you're talking about long-term economic growth, you can't break that dynamic without talking realistic ways about entitlement
reform, realistic ways about tax reform that's not just progressivity but actually pro-growth tax reform, and that would be a huge concession for the president. he's going to have to do that in order to make the system work. >> all right, we'll hear more from around the table in just a couple minutes. i want to bring in the assistant majority leader of the senate, the democrat from illinois, senator dick durbin. senator, welcome back welcome back. >> good to be with you. >> you just heard leader cantor a couple of minutes ago, and i want to get your take on how this standoff, this new standoff on fiscal matters, ends over these automatic spending cuts. to hear the leader say we're not going to deal with any more tax hikes, but that's what the president wants. he wants a different way of going about the spending cuts and some way to find some additional revenue. how is it going to end? >> david, sequestration was designed as a budget threat, not as a budget strategy, and i think all of us understand if it goes forward in less than three weeks, it's going to have a dramatic negative impact on many agencies, equally important on the economy.
so, we need to come together. what the president's proposing for the rest of this year, at least, is that we deal with the sequester the same way we have the first two months, evenly split between revenue and cuts. i think that's a sensible approach, it's consistent with simpson/bowles, which many republicans say should be our standard, and it doesn't really impose a tax burden on middle-income families. >> the president a year ago in his state of the union alalaid a kind of battle line in terms of the way he would deal with republicans. here's what he said. >> as long as i'm president, i will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum, but i intend to fight obstruction with action and i will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place. >> but let me ask you what he those show for that? one year later, we're back to lurching from crisis to crisis. it is, you know, it's so absurd to people outside washington who have to scratch their head and say, wait a minute, this was the
white house that proposed these automatic spending cuts, and now they're saying it would be so awful, there is leon panetta, the out going defense secretary saying it would hollow out the military. this is not how washington is supposed to operate, is it? >> no, it's not, and let me explain. when the president proposed a sequester, it was as an incentive to those of us in congress to work together on a bipartisan basis to solve these problems. it was supposed to be so awful that the super committee would finally reach a bipartisan agreement, but because they completely rejected revenue, it never happened. now we go through the fiscal cliff. we have imposed about roughly $700 billion in new taxes on the wealthiest americans over the next ten years. the president believes, and i agree, within tax reform, we can find additional savings over the next ten years, use that to move toward deficit reduction and still keep this economy moving forward. >> so, how do you gain this -- again, i go back to what the president said a year ago, that
he was going to fight obstruction with action. what does he have to show for that? the one piece of action he got a year later was increased revenues, which is what he campaigned on. what else does he have to show for it. >> i can tell you, we went through an election, david. don't forget, there was a pretty divisive time here in america when we made our choices, and the american people made a clear choice. i might say to mr. murphy, he did win fair and square, and i think his values and policies he spoke to in his inaugural address were the same that he took to the country. so, where are we today? there are positive signs. i listened to eric cantor. he's for the dream act! i introduced this 12 years ago. he's voted against it. now he's for it -- i believe he's for it -- and that's progress. but i might say to him, for example, on immigration, we're moving on a bipartisan basis in the senate. senator mccain, lindsey graham, marco rubio, jeff flay, chuck schumer, bob menendez, michael bennet and myself, in a group trying to come up with a bipartisan solution, but it
won't just apply to children. eric cantor's speech he gave to the american enterprise institute, he quoted emma lazarus and that great quotation that is found on the statue of liability. it doesn't say i lift my lamp beside the golden door for children only. we have 11 million people in this country who need a pathway to citizenship. i hope that the republicans in the house and mr. cantor will embrace that as part of immigration reform. >> i want to get back to spending, but just to pin you down on that point, what i heard from him today was, look, we can get something along the lines of the dream act passed right away, and we may have to come back to this business of a pathway to citizenship for everybody else. but you think there's momentum on the senate side to deal with everybody and deal with this pathway without illegal immigrants having to first go home. >> let me tell you this, david, the dream act means more to me than i can express. i met these young people. but they will tell you, yes, i want a future, but what about my mom and dad? you know, they understand full well that these family structures are critically important to the future of
america. in the senate, we have a bipartisan goal of a pathway to citizenship, not stopping at the dream act, beginning with the dream act and pushing forward. >> i want to get back to the automatic spending cuts and ask a fundamental question that i think republican critics of this president are asking. do you not concede that there is a spending problem in washington, even when it comes to the 50% cuts out of the sequester that are for the defense department? you have said in recent interviews you could live with those. you don't like the manner in which the cuts would be made, but you could live with those cutbacks to the pentagon. so, isn't there a spending problem here that must be addressed? >> absolutely. and i believe as chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee in the senate that we can save money, cut waste in the pentagon and not compromise our national security. but to do this in such a haphazard way, over the remaining six or seven months, it's going to be unfair to the military and our families. think about this for a second. cutting back on psychological
counseling for the members of the military and their family during the remainder of this year when we have this grievous problem of suicides in the military and readjustment when they come home from battle? we can't do that. it isn't fair to them. >> isn't there always a reason to spend the money in washington? >> no, there -- >> can't you always find a reason not to cut? isn't this the republican argument that, at least here, if worst comes to worst and the sequester passes, at least we'll get spending cuts. how else to force the president's hand? >> listen, do we really want to base our spending cuts on reducing medical research in america, on eliminating 70,000 children from head start, that early learning program that's so important? these things don't make sense. let's sit down and do this in a thoughtful manner, and let's include revenue. we should have half of this as revenue from tax reform and the other half in spending cuts, and i support those spending cuts. >> let me tealk to you about th drone controversy and the debate in washington. the "wall street journal" in its editorial on thursday wrote the
following about, sort of paybacks here and the hypocrisy argument. "you may recall that mr. obama and eric holder before he became attorney general denounced the justice department memos that explained why water boarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques were legal. he then made those public along with preeng about how they banned that barbarism. yes, this crowd doesn't arrest and interrogate suspected terrorists. it merely blows them away with missiles from the sky." the reality is this president, like the president before him, believe during the war on terror, you should have strong executive power, which includes the ability congress authorized, for the president to independently kill people associated with al qaeda as he sees fit. do you believe there should be a change in that authorization? is that the debate we ought to have? >> let me tell you, david, two things. first, this president came to
office, he's kept us safe with the best military in the world and the best intelligence agencies, and of course, we know the fate of osama bin laden. in the same time, he's kept us out of further war. he understands that is something that shouldn't be done except in the most extreme circumstances. he made it clear that he would prohibit torture. he wanted to close guantanamo and i supported him, but the rest of congress did not. and now he's trying to come up with a legal architecture to deal with this new war on terrorism. i'm chairman of the constitutional subcommittee in judiciary. we are going to work on this element how to mesh the constitutional principles and values with the new mode of war. it isn't just drones, it's a cyber war that is going on as we speak. it is a raging war between the united states and other countries that could be very damaging to us. >> but the fundamental question is do you have a problem with the poll snaey do you want to do, as a lawmaker, will you do anything to change the policy, or do you think congress should have changed the law in some fashion to restrict the use of drones against even american
citizens who join the enemy? >> here's the balance we have to strike. the constitution said the american people will decide whether we go to war. the american people through congress will vote on this. the question is, when it comes to drones, these remote strikes or cyber security, are we at war? is this an act of war? we're going to get into this constitutional question. >> do you believe we're at war still? >> we're in a different kind of war. we're not sending troops, we're not sending manned bombers. we are dealing with the enemy where we find them to keep america safe. we've got to strike a new constitutional balance with the challenges we face today. >> but i just want to pin you down. you don't believe the policy should be changed, do you? >> well, i can tell you, the policy is really unfolding. most of this has not been de s disclosed. i joined the other senators in writing a letter to the president asking for more detail. the policy is unfolding, but at least the president is engaged in this conversation to establish this legal architecture. that is a dramatic change from
the past. >> two things, could your dleeg, senator menendez, who is facing questions from the ethics committee about dealing with a financial donor and other questions, should he retain his chairmanship? >> senator menendez has given us assurance that there is no substance in these charges. it's being looked into by the ethics committee and i can't comment beyond that. >> what about senator hagel? will he be confirmed or is there discussion that he should pull back and allow the president to nominate someone else? >> i think senator hagel will be confirmed and republican senators have told me privately that they are not going to initiate the first full buster in history on the secretary of defense nominee. he's gotten a lot of grief from members of his own party, many in the senate. in the end, i think he'll receive the votes to be the next secretary of defense. >> including dick cheney who said he was among those nominees that were second-rate choices by the president. >> i'm not going to comment on vice president cheney's views of public service at this point. >> all right.
senator durbin, we will leave it there. thank you very much for your views. >> thank you. we're back now with the roundtable. mayor reed, we're going to get to drones in just a few minutes, even though we ended there. i want to pick up back on this politics now in washington over these automatic spending cuts and whether there's a spending problem. what's your reaction to what you've heard? >> my sense is there is, but we have cut the president's leg, 2.5 million in cuts working with republicans so far. i want to talk a bit about this notion of the president conceding or him taking a more conciliatory tone. i don't agree with that. i mean, i believe he needs to reach out, but the president spent his first term reaching out repeatedly, and he got the back of his hand from the republicans at every turn all the way up through the re-election. he won the election. so, the notion that he should stay in washington, not be out having a public conversation, i disagree with that. he stayed in washington in the first term, and at the midterms, we got killed.
he's going to be out talking to folks and he's going to be inside of washington, but he's cut $2.5 trillion, he's generated 6 million new jobs, and he's prepared to do more. and if you go back to when he was meeting with mr. boehner, they had a deal in 2011 that they likely would have loved during the most recent budget negotiation. >> but let me bring in michael isikoff. here's the issue and the political pressure being brought to bear, you heard it from senator durbin, there's always a reason not to cut because it's the worst kind of cut. here's the calculus and "politico" writes about it about republicans. several polls released since the election show republicans would get the bulk of the blame if the fiscal cliff hit, if sequestration happens now. democrats will say they have proof that the gop is a dysfunctional property that can't even tie its own shoelaces on the pentagon budget. is that where the pressure is? >> yeah. i think the president clearly has the upper hand on the budget. he won the election, he won on
the issues that he fought about and that were debated most heat heatedly, revenues being a part of the equation for cutting the budget. the president won on that. so, i think, you know, on that particular issue, he's got the upper hand, and it makes sense for him politically to hammer it strongly. >> well, i don't think that the deal being offered makes any sense for republicans, because the deal that he's saying is give up spending cuts in trade for tax increases, okay? like, there's literally no republicans in the house or senate that would support such a deal, because of the preconditions of the sequester. you know, i don't know if we end up there. i mean, republicans don't really remember how bad '96 was with the shutdown of the government, many of them, and the president can apply pain in cuts throughout districts across this country. he has a risk, though, as well, of an economic slowdown from these things.
so, i think that they may end up doing a three-month extension, some kind of incremental reform on the european model where we don't solve problems, we just kick them down the road. >> but that, i mean, this is what -- well, mike, you're outside washington now. you tell anybody outside washington, well, here's how we'll solve this, we're going to wait a few months to solve this. >> we're designing the perfect incremental stall, which is why we wound up with sequesteriques running the country because we can't. but the president has a problem here. he thinks the first step to flying a plane is cut off one wing. he's not a candidate anymore. the republicans are hunkered down. they don't care how unpopular they are, because in their districts, they're pretty popular. so the president has a simple choice and the clock is running. politics will take over things in two years, the primaries and midterm elections. if he's got to word now, it's got to be nixon and china and if he would say this, he would unlock a lot of republican votes. he'd have to fight his own party, but it's time for some of
that. and those words are change cpi and beneficiaries pay a little more. >> right. >> that's what it would take -- >> that's for medicare, that's -- >> that's a serious look at entitlements, which the country needs. >> mayor u, you know how hard the politics are on that, plus, the sense, the president feeling, look, i don't have an opposition to trust in that if we move forward on something like that. >> the president's prepared to move. he showed with mr. boehner that he was prepared to do deals and to move, but he has to have a republican party that's really willing dance with him. i know that. now, everybody's talking about sequestration and all of the needs for cuts and the rest, but we have a model in the uk where they have used this policy and their growth in the uk is about 1%. so, we're rushing to do something in the united states that is failing in britain as we speak in terms -- >> britain is well represented here by katty kay. >> and we are looking in britain at the prospect of a triple-dip recession, not a double-dip
recession. a growth declined in america in the last quarter. what america needs is an investment in the future, the kind of things that the sequester will cut are exactly the kinds of things that are an investment in the future -- r&d, education, infrastructure. and what's more, it doesn't even tackle the long-term debt problem because these cuts expire in ten years' time. so, you have -- i mean, of course, america has to deal with entitlement reform. you've got to spend less on your health care. but this sequester is not the route to doing it. this sequester is killing growth. >> but mike, can i ask you a question about -- you look at the flurry of activity here. yes, he's going to have to deal with the budget in some fashion, they're moving forward on immigration reform and taking on the gun issue. this is where the outside game may be helping the president, where he's got a real opportunity here. even on guns, in a way that bill clinton didn't in the mid-'90s, where it was such a toxic issue. >> there may be issues where the outside game helps. unfortunately, on immigration it doesn't help at all. right now there are republican partners, like senator rubio,
that they don't need pressure. they actually need cover in their own party. >> exactly. >> and if, when he increases the pressure, he's actually empowering the critics, the conservative critics of immigration reform. so, he's going to have to take an approach. if he wants to do that on the economy, which he's done, you know, many times, and is likely to do in this speech, i hope he carves out immigration as an exception, because that is both a huge lead, a legacy issue for the president, it's the right issue for the country, but it's going to require a legislative strategy of building coalitions, which he doesn't seem particularly -- >> but if he leads, mike, he could face outright rejection. >> he's got to make a choice. if he's still a candidate, he's about making political victories, because he can score on immigration, isolate republicans, he can blow up the deal, which is what will happen. or if he would pick up the phone and call some of the heroes like rubio and mccain and jeb bush and others doing the stuff on immigration and ask them what they need privately, they'll tell him to go away, get out of the way. stop the finger-pointing, stop
the speeches and let them try to get a very hard thing done. >> quickly. >> the president has certainly done that. he changed his speech in 2346789 hav nevada. he's done that and the only thing he's said is he definitely is going to get a bill. before we start calling other people heroes, all he says is he wants a bill, and he's backed up just as you all said, and the republicans continue to attack him on. >> all right -- >> he can ruin them. >> let me get a break in here. we'll come back and talk about drones. the president made the use of drones a cornerstone of national security policy. is it time to rethink the rules? should americans be sdmernd we're going to get more from the roundtable on that right after this. [ woman ] ring. ring. progresso.
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what's beyond dispute is this, drone attacks have become a huge weapon for this country, and this president has made unprecedented use of them. nbc news has obtained a government document that lays out the legal argument to justify the president's use of drones to kill al qaeda suspects, including in some cases u.s. citizens. >> "nightly news" on tuesday. we're back with our roundtable. and that document was obtained by our own investigative correspondent michael isikoff, which spelled out the legal basis for even targeting americans who join al qaeda. that's where the debate has been. but after all that's happened this week, mike, as you look forward, where is this debate actually going? what is the debate that we are actually having? >> well, it's a very difficult
one legally and morally and strategically. first of all, what was significant about the document that we reported on is it really did go beyond in certain respects what had been said publicly about what the legal foundations were for targeting americans who are suspected of being operational leaders of al qaeda. attorney general holder had given a speech last year in which he set out a three-point test for this. number one, that the target is believed to be -- is going to pose an imminent threat of a violent attack. you read the memo and you see there's a great elasticity to how that's defined. imminent attack does not mean they have specific intelligence about an ongoing plot. it may only talk about recent activities and if that target hasn't renounced those activities, then it can be assumed. it's a broader definition of imminence than i think most people had realized. the second part of the test is, if capture is unfeasible.
well, what defines unfeasible? and the memo talks about, well, if capture would pose an undue risk for u.s. personnel, that would be a factor in determining that it was unfeasible. these were issues that were not clearly spelled out by the administration beforehand. they use language that's very ill-defined and open to broad interpretations, and i think that's why you're seeing so much attention to this issue now. >> but it's still a question, katty, as to whether lawmakers want to change the policy. because the debate we're hearing is are we getting access to the documents, how much oversight is there? and before you respond, let me play john brennan, who tried to clear some of the air about how difficult the process is that they go through. >> i think there is a misimpression on the part of some of the american people who believe that we take strikes to punish terrorists for past transgressio
transgressions. nothing could be further from the truth. we only take such actions as a last resort to save lives, when there is no other alternative to taking an action that's going to mitigate that threat. >> members of congress hate not being informed, but the downside of being informed is that you then have some responsibility for the policy that's happening. we are now starting to have a discussion about the drone strikes and benefits and otherwise of them to america's national security. i mean, what struck me about those hearings most of all is we heard a lot about the legality or otherwise of striking american citizens, about how much information congress was having or not having, but we didn't hear what i'm hearing from national security people, is that there is a concern about that these drone strikes are actually not in america's long-term political interests in areas like pakistan and yemen. we are turning large numbers of moderate pakistanis, journalists, politicians, lawyers, doctors, the kind of people that shape policy in those countries against us. admiral mullen, general mcchrystal have all expressed
concerns that every time we have a drone that mishits somebody, kills civilians, we set back our strategy in those countries by months, if not years. >> that's what the national security overseas. i guess, mayor reed, there is also a question about where this goes. i think that ultimately, a lot of liberal critics are saying if this becomes more elastic, if this is unchecked, what are the limits to it? i mean, look at what's going on in los angeles, this pursuit of chris dorner, who is the officer there, the subject of this manhunt. you know, could we ultimately use drone technology to both, you know, track him and ultimately kill him if he's an imminent threat? is that where it goes and is that an appropriate use of it? >> i don't think it goes there if we prevent it from going there. the president's been very clear that he wants to create a structure that informs congress appropriately. but we've got to remember, both president bush and president obama have kept this country safe. and you know when you communicate with him personally, he takes nothing more seriously than being commander in chief,
and he is not going to take a tool that saves american lives off the table, but he is open to having this conversation. he said it immediately and responded to michael pretty -- >> but here's the bottom line, executives, a republican and a democrat, believe the same thing, which is when you're fighting terror, the executives should have all the power, because you know what, if something goes bad on your watch, it's really bad. >> exactly, but the obama people do have an incentive for trying to do something about this, to put some limits on it. let me give you a statistic to illustrate that. we heard john brennan's comments about this is only a last resort, it's rarely that we do this. the total number of americans that have been killed by drone strikes under president obama is three. that happens to be exactly the same number of high-valued detainees who were water-boarded under president bush. and as we all know, water boarding is, and michael will know this as well as anybody, is
going to be part of the legacy of the bush years. i don't think the obama people want targeted killing of americans to be very high up on the list of their legacy in national security policy, which is why they have an incentive to try to figure out a way to do something about it. >> there is an incentive, though, because drones are central to the obama approach on national security, precisely because they want to disengage from what they regard as messy counterinsurgency operations, like in afghanistan. so, what do you do when you disengage from counterinsurgency operations? you have to step up counterterrorism operations, which is what drones do and what they've done, in order just not to surrender this ground. associati so, i think the expanded use of drones is related to their broader strategy. >> let me go quickly around the table on something and save what little time i have left moving away from drones to some of the hot political topics we've got to go around the table with, and michael, i'll tee you up on
these. there's three of them. rubio the savior? christie and his weight. and ashley judd and the crosshairs. marco rubio on the cover of "time" magazine, giving a response to the state of the union. he's pretty unfront as a leading voice for 2016. >> he's a huge republican voice, and that's a good thing for the republican party. i'm a fan. i'm saying, though, if he's thinking of running for president, this is awful early. feels way too early for me. >> and they risk overexposure. >> win the immigration fight, it's the best thing for the party, best for the country -- >> by the way, rubio is going to be talking about political philosophy, talking about how limited government helps the middle class. that will help him with conservatives, which i think is part of the goal here. >> katty kay, here you have chris christie taking on his weight on his terms. we just showed the pictures of him on letterman. he takes out the donut. he says i'm the healthiest fat guy you know. he's taking this issue on. it would be an issue if he ran. >> yeah, he joked about it then, but he's also spoken about it
much more seriously about his efforts to try and lose weight, how much it's working, how much he identifies with other americans. clearly, this is a huge problem for the country, people dying, the cost to health care because of obesity. i'm not sure that joking and taking out a donut helps his cause and helps his presidential standing. his opinion poll ratings are incredibly high. he has shot back against bush's former doctor that said that he was sitting on a time bomb because of his weight issues. he's going to have to deal with it. i'm just not sure with a donut on "letterman" is the way to do it. >> is ashley judd a real threat to mitch mcconnell? karl rove's group using that ad against her. >> i think, she could be -- first-time candidates have a lot of trouble. i worked for a hollywood star who got elected governor of california. they can be very attractive, but i wouldn't bet against mitch mcconnell in a political knife fight. >> all right, we're going to leave it there. by the way, mayor, for you to be here on your mom sylvia's
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